RIP Michael Snow. I’ve seen his Wavelength on film and disrespected it, watched a horrendous home video copy of La Region Centrale and loved it… had fun with Presents and *Corpus Callosum, Sshtoorrty and Cityscape. It’s not so easy for a mid-country dweller like myself to watch his works, but I assume I’ll be watching them (or trying to) for a long time. One thing I can access is his book… which reads very much like a movie, a split-screen tracking shot. It has fade-ups, for god’s sake. It’s not all continuous motion – there are scene changes using page-turn effects (pages held and rephotographed mid-turn, then printed on new pages). The book contains itself, like a movie about its own making.

Reprint publisher Primary Information:

Never bound by discipline, Snow has remarked that his sculptures were made by a musician, his films by a painter. Flipping through Cover to Cover, which is composed entirely of photographs in narrative sequence, one might describe it as a book made by a filmmaker. Snow himself has called the piece “a quasi-movie.” … an elegant, disorienting study in simultaneity that allows the viewer to enter the work from either end.

Martha Langford has a good write-up, and a whole free PDF book on Snow

Chris Fite-Wassilak in ArtReview on the book’s cinematic precedent, which I’ll probably never see:

Snow … made Cover to Cover as a book artwork in 1975, shortly after his film Two Sides to Every Story (1974), the product of two cameramen filming each other from opposite sides of a room, was completed. In the resulting two-part projection (each part projected onto opposite sides of the same aluminium sheet) we can choose to watch, from either of the camera’s perspectives, a woman walk between them and, at one point, spraypaint a green circle onto a piece of clear Perspex. The technique gives a materiality to the projected image, as if trapping it within the plates of a microscope slide ready for examination … Reading Cover to Cover is much like watching one of Snow’s films: visually quite mundane, where what happens isn’t as important as how it’s being shown to you, with a sustained focus that sits with a relatively simple idea for longer than you might think.

Among everything else, Snow was a jazz guy – a music enthusiast, pianist, recording artist. We see his hi-fi setup in Cover to Cover. I spent the day listening to his works available on UbuWeb

“Short Wavelength” from 2 Radio Solos is a 1980 live DJ performance, Snow on the shortwave radio dial, tuning between different stations and statics. Snow claims no other sound manipulation, but he’s been known to lie on his album descriptions, and many of the sounds here have clearly been sped up (like reeeeal clearly). It tried my patience, then I stopped listening closely and got tied up in work, then it ended and I thought “hunh, it’s already over?”

“Conference: Subject: 3 Inches = 77 Milimeters = 3 Min. 30 Sec.” from Hearing Aid (2002) is three guys making mouth noises, commenting that three inches makes a difference, with synth coming in at the end, an avant-stand-up comedy-garde performance. This chaos continues in the “Interview” track that follows, interviewer Doina Popescu asking straight questions in German and getting pained groaning sounds in response. The 20-minute “Discussion” track might even be a proper discussion – postponing listening to the rest of that.

“Left Right” from Music For Piano, Whistling, Microphone and Tape Recorder (1975) sounds simply lo-fi at first, but what has he done with the microphone to make the piano sound like this? Excellent minimalist music to work to, then it gets hyper towards the end. Alan Licht calls it “pretty brutal”:

Snow alternating notes and chords in the bass and treble registers in a very repetitive stride piano pattern. The sound is intentionally distorted and a metronome and telephone are heard … many of Snow’s films are concerned with lateral movement (especially BACK AND FORTH and PRESENTS), which makes the title (and the use of a metronome–get it?) a pun on his own art.

“Falling Starts” also from the 1975 album… Licht again: “a tape of a piano melody first played back at hyperspeed, then slower and slower until it becomes recognisable before transforming into a thunderous, quivering bass boom.” This sounded like it would be good work music, and sure enough. I played the first half.

Sinoms (1989) – One voice at a time reads a list of Quebec mayors, like teachers taking roll. Ten minutes in, it starts getting playful, combining different voices speaking the same mayor name at once, then layering in different stereo patterns. The voices are English or French native speakers with some pronunciation hurdles. After a while in headphones it gives the pleasant feeling of working in a busy cafe surrounded by conversation, but without the distraction of following people’s conversations or phone calls. Ends abruptly.

Discogs says there’s a three-CD collection of piano works out there. Allmusic’s discography is incomplete and mixes him up with another Michael Snow, but bringing things back (and forth), they use a page from Cover to Cover as the artist photo.

Someone or other, at the beginning of 2022, said they might watch a pile of 1972 movies on their fiftieth anniversary, and I stole the idea. This is probably why I watched The Inner Scar and The Boxer from Shantung and The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant and Boxcar Bertha and Fat City and Asylum and The Blood Spattered Bride… and sometimes my release years get mixed up so it might’ve been why I watched A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin or Fantastic Planet. It’s definitely why I gathered these 1972 shorts and kept them around for many months before finally deciding on Dec 30 that it’s now or never. Turns out they were all very good.


Ordinary Matter (Hollis Frampton)

The opening seconds, the camera rockin’ and rollin’ over some shingles, effectively demonstrates the weakness of my overcompressed VHS rip. A man speaks single syllables (a Chinese alphabet? you can download the script from Carnegie) with feedback echo, as the low-framerate camera tears ass through the countryside, producing frantically framing foliage. Then a square park surrounded by a columned hallway, the camera running through the halls looking inwards towards the park, the columns providing a film-flicker effect. Then over the Brooklyn Bridge, the camera getting distracted by any stone columns it encounters. Into the earth and grass, the image like an abstract fireworks display with the occasional tire track running through it. The voiceover runs out of syllables during a romp through Stonehenge with ten minutes still to go in the film – that’s poor planning for a structuralist! A shock when the camera stops and lingers in the cornfields. Anticlimactic ending, silently stomping sunward through the bushes. One of the more vibrant Frampton films I’ve seen, overall – part of his Hapax Legomena project.


Leonardo’s Diary (Jan Svankmajer)

Intercutting painstaking journal pages come to life with stock footage of human antics, creating some wild juxtapositions. A really fun one, released the year after the also-great Jabberwocky.


The Midnight Parasites (Yoji Kuri)

More animation, this one a colorful panorama of hellish mutilations. Among all the things gobbling up and shitting out other things, there’s a rare 1970’s human centipede. Real demented Boschian cartoon, the music a nifty electrogroove.

Mouseover for centipede, ya sicko:
image


The Bathroom (Yoji Kuri)

Stop-motion lunacy in a striped room (and sometimes the bathroom). Objects make and unmake themselves and clip through the floor, 3D cartoons and human actors turned into animation. Kuri’s interest in food and butts continues. Then suddenly, sped-up doc footage of crowds visiting a gallery of Kuri’s butt-centric art. Obviously this is all wonderful. The wikis say that Kuri was an early star of the Annecy Film Fest, made 40+ shorts, and is alive at 94.


Winnie-the-Pooh and a Busy Day (Fyodor Khitruk & Gennadiy Sokolskiy)

Alas, the last of the Russian Pooh shorts.
The one where Eeyore cries a lot on his birthday, then finds his lost tail.


Chakra (Jordan Belson)

Richly colored video light, washing like waves, flying like ashes, drifting like clouds, with a better soundtrack than these things tend to have. I bet seeing this projected properly would be gobsmacking.

Chakra (c) Jordan Belson


Take Five (Zbigniew Rybczynski)

Dancers’ images, tinted and overlapping, like these screenshots but in rapid motion over a jazz soundtrack. In the final minute the editing goes berserk, the jazz gets chopped and screwed. Real out there. I’ve only previously seen Rybczynski’s oscar-winning Tango. Take Five was among his earliest work, a thesis film, and the wikis say he’s had a big life since then, becoming a pioneer in video technology.


Top Ten Still-Unseen 1972 Movies:

The Merchant of Four Seasons
Morgiana
Don’t Torture the Duckling
Remote Control / Special Effects
Last Tango in Paris
What’s Up, Doc?
Red Psalm
Savage Messiah
The Death of Maria Malibran
Pink Flamingos

An island murder mystery, so soon before Glass Onion comes out. Good lighting and fashion, the camera getting up in everyone’s business with help of a zoom lens, music going as big as possible… poor acting and dialogue and logic and dubbing.

The Professor has a secret formula, three other guys want him to sell it to them, then everybody starts turning up dead and being sent to the meat locker. The Professor (who also played a professor in Devil Fish) dies, of course, his widow Trudy scheming with Bad Hair Jack, then they shoot each other over the precious microfilm. I lost track of how the island-prowling loner girl was related to anyone else – played by the daughter who hung out with dangerous hippies in A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin – but she survives and gets all the money.

“Death’s a commercial necessity.”

This absurd murder conspiracy movie was the perfect follow-up to a Final Destination sequel. Logical movies are boring, illogical ones are stupid, but movies that follow their own dream logic, where a woman in a busy daylit park can suddenly, while lighting a cigarette, become all alone at twilight, then get chased through a hedge maze, ending up trapped between cobwebbed stone walls… what was I saying?

Drummer and Wife:

Drummer Roberto is being tailed by guy in suit, follows the follower into a theater, but it’s a setup, where he’s photographed killing the suit guy. Paranoid, he tells his blonde wife everything, . Detectives get involved, a terrible gay private eye is hired, the drummer’s cat gets kidnapped, he visits a coffin convention with “God” Godfrey and a wacky Professor. In the middle of all this, a hot cousin stays over and wants to give him a massage in the bath. After the cousin’s incredible death scene, her retinas are scanned to find an image of the last thing she saw, which leads to the drummer’s wife. The drummer and his wife are good in this (some side characters are very dubbed) but the wife’s last-minute psychological backstory keeps reverting to Italian before she fatally flees from the house.

God with his parrot Jerkoff:

Intense filmmaking, this worked better for me than Crystal Plumage or Deep Red. The lead guy was also in a Bea Arthur movie. His wife Mimsy Farmer has a great Italian horror career – Autopsy, Fulci’s Black Cat, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, and something from the Cannibal Holocaust guy. The cousin was in The Disappearance, Stuart Cooper’s followup to Overlord.

Dr. Robert Powell (Ken Russell’s Mahler) arrives at the titular asylum to work for Dr. Starr, but is met by his assistant Patrick Magee instead. Magee says Starr is now a patient, locked safely upstairs with a trusty electrical system controlled by this button (I’ve heard that one before), and challenges Mahler to correctly identify the doctor. Mahler heroically pads the film on the way upstairs, and the orderly (who I correctly/immediately guessed as the doctor) lets him into each room, one at a time… yes, it’s a corny anthology horror, the same year Magee and Cushing and Dr. Orderly appeared in Tales from the Crypt. 1972 would seem to be too late for this kinda thing, but British people such as Edgar Wright think all this is great.

Bonnie (Barbara Parkins of The Mephisto Waltz and A Taste of Evil) isn’t even the murderer in her story – her boyfriend Richard Todd (the least famous person in House of the Long Shadows) chops up his harpy wife (Sylvia Syms, appropriately of Victim) and puts her in the basement freezer, but her butcher-paper-wrapped body parts reanimate, strangling him and attacking the unwitting Bonnie with the hatchet until the police arrive to blame the whole mess on her.

Tailor Bruno (Barry Morse of The Changeling) was brought the Man in the White Suit material by mysterious customer Peter Cushing, who planned on using dark magick to resurrect his dead son with the suit, but the tailor’s wife puts the suit on a mannequin which comes to life instead.

Barbara (young Charlotte Rampling, whoa) seems the most culpable so far. She starts by blaming Lucy (Britt Ekland of Wicker Man) for murdering her brother (James Villiers of Mountains of the Moon) and the nurse (Megs Jenkins of The Innocents), but Lucy might be an invented personality of Barbara’s.

Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom of The Sect) is at least a doctor of something – I don’t know how we’re supposed to imagine that the previous three were actually psychologists based on their stories. But Lom’s specialty is transmitting his consciousness into sub-Puppet Master wind-up dolls. The new visitor must’ve inspired a rampage, since he and Dr. Orderly go on the attack.

Sexually explicit horror movie filmed in Galicia. The Bride imagines being raped by a closet dweller at her honeymoon hotel, so instead they go to his weirdo family’s place, where instead she fantasizes of joining with Creepy Carmilla and murdering the husband with a dagger that looks like a bathtub faucet handle. She keeps having visions, so I assumed the time he finds Carmilla naked, buried in the sand and breathing through a scuba mask would be one of those, but nope.

Carmilla appears to be the ageless vampire of a family ancestor. By the end, she’s killed a couple locals, and turned the bride and young Carol, who sounds dubbed by someone older. The husband figures it out and does some vampire slaying, but this looks bad to the local authorities.

Who could kill a child?

This guy could:

Main dude was in The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (whoa) and Beyond Re-Animator. The Bride was a lead in The House That Screamed by Serrador, whose other movie I just watched, and Carmilla costarred with John Hurt and Peter Cushing in The Ghoul.

First I’ve seen by Aranda – his 1960’s proto-giallo Fata Morgana sounds good, and his murder mystery Exquisite Cadaver. The DP worked on Cannibal Apocalypse and Comin’ at Ya and the editor works with Carlos Saura. One of many adaptations of the Irish novel Carmilla – others include the previous year’s Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Alucarda, the British Vampire Lovers, a Christopher Lee called Crypt of the Vampire, Roger Vadim’s Blood and Roses, and a three season youtube series.

Opens with a blood drinking ritual in a slaughterhouse, 1905.

Infighting in a gang of thieves, blonde guy takes a girl hostage to escape, she gets away immediately, he runs and discovers a manor draped in fog and ominous music. The thieves lurk outside, confident they can move in and take him and his stolen gold. Inside, the runaway finds two hot girls. He locks them in a room and they start making out and getting gratuitously naked – ah yes, this is from the director of Shiver of the Vampires. Even not knowing French I can tell the dialogue acting is dry and unconvincing, but the nudity is legit.

Thief (Jean-Marie Lemaire of the Anthony Hopkins Hitler movie) and blonde Brigitte Lahaie (Calvaire and Jesús Franco’s Faceless) and brunette Franca Maï (whose wiki includes among her career achievements “co-creator of a website”) take turns threatening each other. Brigitte breaks the standoff by calmly delivering the gold to the people outside, then grabs the scythe from the poster art and dispatches a bunch of murderous thieves.

New woman arrives – this is Fanny Magier of Jesús Franco’s Hitler movie Convoy of Girls, which also stars Marc who is apparently a Hitler movie regular – and speaks of satanic rituals, everyone being calm and cool. I put this movie on because it’s short, but I’m the kid who held his breath in The Jaunt right now, as they play hilarious 1900’s blindfolded party games. Finally Brigitte is shot and the others devour her blood – I saw this turn coming since it’s in Criterion’s vampire collection.

This opens with scenes of death camp nazis bulldozing bodies… Indian starvation camps… mutilated Korean War orphans, and so on, a Faces of Death montage. Feels like an poor way to set the tone for your stupid horror movie, but it turns out they’re making a more socially conscious version of Village of the Damned, and the kids’ psychic murder rampage is payback for all the needless child death caused by adult decisions.

English couple travels to a Spanish island for vacation, having never heard of the Spanish language or culture before, and they happen to arrive on the day the kids rise up against adults. A good British person, he’s obsessed with never telling his pregnant wife what’s happening – when he witnesses the kids string up an adult as a human piñata and attack it with a scythe, he insists to her that it’s nothing, and everything’s fine. This is his fatal flaw, since he becomes convinced that the kids are monsters and she doesn’t, so she wrecks the car when he tries to run them down while escaping. Her own baby attacks her from inside, and he gets a Night of the Living Dead ending when a postman from the mainland sees him killing a kid and shoots him.

Serrador made The House That Screamed, which I didn’t love, but this was on some horror lists and proved to be good and messed-up. The lead guy was in Dr. Phibes Rises Again and his wife in The Secret of Seagull Island. DP José Luis Alcaine has been an Almodóvar regular since Volver.

It was instructive to watch a perfect 35mm print of a 1970’s movie at the Plaza the night after watching a 4k DCP restoration of a 1980’s movie from the same seat. The 35mm cost more to attend, since screenings are increasingly rare – this is probably my first time seeing a movie on film since The Grand Bizarre 3.5 years ago. I forget who it was who said digital projection is just watching television in public but… I couldn’t really tell the difference?

I remembered the very end of this – Hackman playing sax in his ruined apartment after failing to discover how he’s being surveilled – but not most of the rest, and especially not that his secretive rich client Robert Duvall is the one who gets murdered in the hotel – presumably by the client’s wife and bf whom Hackman’s group was recording in the park at the beginning.

Hackman’s character is especially memorable here – he’s catholic, lives by a strict code, appears to be a master of his craft, but keeps taking jobs that end in murders, getting tricked and betrayed and spied on. Nice spy-movie construction too – we never learn everything, like what the Director’s assistant Harrison Ford was up to. If this was influenced by Blowup, then Blow Out is kinda a remake of both movies.